The $5 book club

by Russ Roberts on October 8, 2008

in Books

I’ll be speaking later this month and early next at the University of Vermont (a debate with Bill McKibben on buying local), and to an AP teachers conference in Richmond, Virginia. I’d like to sell my book, The Price of Everything, at both places. But it’s hard to sell books. So I’d like to subsidize them and sell them cheap, for $5. For the teachers, I’m tempted to just give them away, but making them pay $5 makes sure that they have some interest in reading it.

So I’m asking for your help. Join the $5 book club. Membership costs $10. For your $10, you have the pleasure of knowing that someone like a teacher of economics or a fan of Bill McKibben (probably the modal member of the audience at UV) will have a chance to read the book. Send $100 and I’ll give you an autographed copy of the book. Send $200 and you’ll also get an autographed copy of The Invisible Heart. Send $300 and you’ll also get an autographed copy of The Choice. Send $500 and I’ll send you a Hayek bobblehead. Kidding about the bobblehead but I’d like to have one of those someday.

The whole thing is informal. You trust me to use the money toward selling the book to audiences that are either highly skeptical or influential (teachers).

So if you’re interested, send money to me at my GMU address:

Professor Russell Roberts
Department of Economics, MSN 3G4
George Mason University
4400 University Dr.
Fairfax, VA.  22030

Let me know if you want to be anonymous—I may post a membership list at some point. And if you send $100 or more, let me know where to send you an autographed copy. I’ll keep everyone posted on the response.

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Chris October 8, 2008 at 12:08 pm

Any chance the debate will be webcast? That's one I'd like to see.

Jeremy October 8, 2008 at 1:31 pm

I might be interested in contributing towards a fund like this; however I am confused. Wouldn't letting us know how the response is going open the door for my free riding on the good intentions of others? Wouldn't the response be less then what it might be if we were in the dark about how the fundraising is going?

For my part, I would definitely contribute to this fund. But I would also like to know how the $5 book sale went, and what kind of response the UV crowd gave The Price of Everything.

Flash Gordon October 8, 2008 at 1:45 pm

Problem is that if you give it away free nobody thinks it's worth anything. You have to convince them it is worth buying.

I used to make studio portraits of my friends for free. I never got any compliments, they just took the photos and said thanks. Then I started charging a couple of hundred books for a sitting. The compliments flooded in. I got what I really wanted which was not the money but the praise. Without the money, no praise. Strange but true.

Helder October 8, 2008 at 3:43 pm

Would be easier if you open a Paypal account…

Geoffrey October 8, 2008 at 5:50 pm


I second Helder's comment..

I will give you $100 if you open a paypal account..


stuckinOH October 8, 2008 at 5:57 pm

As a Vermonter attending Denison University in Ohio, I'm very sorry to have to miss your debate. Bill McKibben came to our school last year to talk about the need to reduce US carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. The notion of food miles being a less-than-ideal method of carbon counting had not yet dawned on him… not sure if it has yet.

You may know this already, but he's strongly against free trade. He told us during his speech that it's okay for China to develop a little because "I've been to China, and there are people there who are 30 years old who look like they're 80." Somehow, however, China is supposed to stop developing and stay more prosperous than before without trading with the rest of the world.

Anyway, do let me know if a recording or transcript of the debate will be available.

Chris October 8, 2008 at 6:28 pm

I'm with Helder, too. Get a paypal account.

T L Holaday October 8, 2008 at 6:52 pm

I would be delighted to craft for you a Google Checkout "Buy Now" button-with-options which will allow people to contribute to this cause at varying degrees of support. Google charges 2% plus $0.20.

Unit October 8, 2008 at 8:21 pm

I'm in!

About the Hayek bobblehead, who did the drawings of Hayek on the sidebar?

Mark October 8, 2008 at 8:59 pm

Have you consider exposing your book by writing articles about economics on a site like

Morgan October 8, 2008 at 9:31 pm

What you need is a way to hold the release of the book while you take closed bids on it, then close at the price that maximizes the profit. If 80,000,000 people will buy it at $0.01, while only 20,000,000 will buy at $0.02, sell at $0.01. Do I need to explain this to an economist?

Also, you should charge me $0.02 to post a comment.

Ray G October 9, 2008 at 1:47 am

I'm in.

I'll send a check, but paypal is absurdly easy to set up, but I won't wait.

And I did the Hayek caricatures on the sidebars.

Thanks for noticing.

John P October 9, 2008 at 4:21 am

Stephen J. Dubner just reviewed The Price of Everything at the Freakonomics Blog.

Subsidizing the audience’s ability to buy books…? So who feels like Ramon at the Big Box, paying the difference on the Mexican woman’s bill? Need we worry about also subsidizing Princeton Press’ marketing of the book?

Chris October 9, 2008 at 8:44 am

Where and when are you speaking in Richmond? Any non-education folk allowed to attend?

Mark Wonsil October 9, 2008 at 9:22 am

I often want to ask the buy local vendors, "Do you sell outside the local area? If so, are you hypocritical?"

As for the bobble-head, I'll get one if there's a signed copy of "The Bumpy Road to Serfdom"

Robbie October 9, 2008 at 9:54 am

I'll certainly chip in if you set up a PayPal account. It'll be a way of repaying you for the pirated copy of The Price of Everything I downloaded. ;)

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